Pertussis (whooping cough) is life threatening to babies.
Surround your baby with protection. Vaccinate your entire family.
Pertussis can be deadly to infants. It keeps them from breathing and eating. It may cause pneumonia, brain damage, and even death. In some cases, babies cannot breathe or cough.
Have your family create a “cocoon” of protection around your baby by getting vaccinated
Are pertussis vaccines safe?
Both the childhood vaccine (DTaP) and the adolescent/adult vaccine (Tdap) are safe and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
For more information about vaccine safety, visit: www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety
Can my baby get the pertussis (DTaP) vaccine?
Yes. Babies can get the pertussis vaccine when they are two months old, then again at four and six months. They are not fully protected until they get the third dose of the vaccine at six months.
How can I protect my baby until he/she gets his/her own vaccines?
Ensure everyone who is going to be around your baby gets vaccinated with the Tdap vaccine. This includes their mother, father, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, baby sitters and even their doctors and nurses.
Call your health provider about getting pertussis vaccines for your entire family.
Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKIDS)
Whooping cough is the common name for pertussis. Whooping cough is a serious, highly contagious disease caused by bacteria that can be especially dangerous for infants and children under 5 years of age.
How dangerous is the disease?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- More than half of infants less than 1 year of age who get whooping cough must be hospitalized. Of those infants hospitalized:
- About 1 in 4 infants with whooping cough get pneumonia (lung infection) and about 1 in 100 children will have convulsions.
- About 1 in 300 infants with whooping cough develop a brain disorder called encephalopathy.
- Two thirds of infants will have apnea (slowed or stopped breathing)
- Whooping cough can be deadly. About 1 in 100 hospitalized infants with whooping cough will die.
How do people catch it?
Whooping cough – pertussis – is spread when people come into contact with the respiratory droplets of an infected person. It is very contagious and can spread, on average to 80 percent of those coming in contact with a sick person.
Most children under 6 years of age have received a series of shots to protect them from pertussis. However, that protection wears off in 5-10 years. That makes older children, teens, and adults more likely to contract the infection and spread it to others.
What are the symptoms of whooping cough?
At first, symptoms are very similar to those of a common cold:
- Runny nose
- Mild fever
- Occasional cough.
One to two weeks after the first symptoms appear:
- The cough gradually becomes more severe.
- A hacking cough or cough spasm is often followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like “whoop.”
- Some coughing spasms are so severe, they can lead to vomiting.
- This advanced stage of the disease can last up to six weeks before the symptoms begin to gradually disappear.
Adolescents and adults often have milder disease (cold symptoms with a prolonged cough, commonly without the classic “whoop”).
How will I know when to go to the doctor?
If you or your child develops a cold that includes a prolonged or severe cough, it could be whooping cough. Always contact your healthcare provider if pertussis is suspected.
How is whooping cough treated?
Antibiotics are used to treat whooping cough and to protect others who have been in close contact with the infected person from getting it. Rest and plenty of liquids are also urged.
Isn’t whooping cough a thing of the past?
In the early 1900s, there were about 160,000 cases of whooping cough and around 5,000 deaths from it in the U.S. each year. Between 1940 and 1945, there was an average of 175,000 cases of pertussis per year. Vaccines were developed and widely used in the 1940s. By 1970 were fewer than 5,000 cases per year in the United States
Since the 1980s we’ve seen a dramatic and unfortunate increase in the number of cases. Many of those cases are among adolescents and teens (ages 10–19), and babies less than 6 months of age. In 2010 there were more than 27,550 cases including 27 deaths from pertussis nationally. In April 2012, Washington state declared a pertussis epidemic with a large increase in the number of cases in infants less than 1 year of age and children 10 years of age. There was also an increase in children 13-14 years of age. As of July 2012, nationwide nearly 18,000 cases have been reported to CDC which is more than twice as many as was reported last year at the same time.
What can be done to stop the spread of this disease?
DHEC and the South Carolina Hospital Association encourage all South Carolina hospitals to take appropriate steps to protect their patients, visitors, employees, medical staff members, and volunteers from pertussis infection through the development and implementation of a pertussis prevention plan. Read the Pertussis Vaccination Position Statement here.
Who should get the vaccine?
Children 6 and younger must get the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccine to attend school and daycare in South Carolina. The vaccination works best when it is given in five separate doses at these recommended intervals:
- 2 months of age
- 4 months of age
- 6 months of age
- 15-18 months of age, and
- When starting elementary school (4-6 years of age).
Who should get the booster shot?
New recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that a single dose of the booster shot called Tdap is recommended for the following persons:
- Children 7-10 years of age who are not fully vaccinated against pertussis and for whom no contraindication to pertussis vaccine exists
- Pre-teens and teens 11-18 years of age
- Adults 19-64 years of age
- Adults > 65 years of age who have or anticipate having close contact with an infant younger than 12 months of age. (Other adults > 65 years of age may receive a dose of Tdap vaccine if they desire protection against pertussis)
- Healthcare personnel in hospitals and ambulatory care settings with direct patient contact
- Pregnant women in their third or late second trimester (after 20 weeks gestation) who have not previously received Tdap.
Tdap vaccine is especially important for those persons noted above who have contact with an infant younger than 12 months of age (e.g., parents, grandparents and other family members, babysitters, daycare workers, healthcare workers). To assist in the efforts to increase protection, Tdap will be required for all 7th grade students in South Carolina for the 2013-2014 school year.
Please note that Tdap vaccine can be given regardless of when you last received a tetanus shot or tetanus/diphtheria booster shot; there is no waiting period needed. Don’t delay your vaccination against whooping cough, especially if you have contact with an infant.
For more information, see CDC’s pertussis website.
- Best Practices for Health Care Professionals on the use of PCR for Diagnosing Pertussis
- NP swab and aspirate collection videos
- Updated Recommendations for the Use of Tdap Vaccine
- Pertussis Clinical Information for Medical Providers
- Pertussis Treatment and Post Exposure Prophylaxis Recommendations
- Recommendation for use of Tdap in pregnancy
- Recommended Antimicrobial Agents for the Treatment and Postexposure Prophylaxis of Pertussis - 2005 CDC Guidelines
- Pertussis treatment
- DHEC and SC Hospital Association Pertussis Vaccination Position Statement
- Epi Notes review article on pertussis in adolescents and adults (pdf)
Patient educational materials:
You can download and print these items from the links below. Or you can request up to 25 printed copies, by completing an order form (pdf).
Submit the completed form:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fax: (803) 898-3476
Educational Materials Library
2600 Bull Street
Columbia, SC 29201
- Flier: Pertussis (whooping cough) is life threatening to babies (pdf)
- Poster: Surround Your Baby With Protection. Vaccinate Your Entire Family (pdf)
Parents of Kids with Infections Diseases (PKIDS):